Awakening to an English breakfast on Sunday, I sipped my cup of rooibos tea, delighted that our local flavour was way better than the English Earl Grey. I watched the Proteas take on the English with confidence that the game was ours. From the first Protea ball the game proved to be an interesting chase, with the Pommies “oohing and aahing” like little girls, with every ball that was hit, hoping to knock South Africa’s top batsmen out, and fast. It didn’t look like they were going to succeed at first and then… they all fell down.
With each wicket that fell, I could hear that whisper growing louder. The poisonous snake that shows its head whenever we’re losing a game, wrapped around my neck, tightening with each ball. Friends were asking each other “you think they’re going to… you know what”. The dreaded C-word was poking its way to the surface.
When the last man standing was caught, we were once again colonised for just six runs. The C-tag was sewn quickly onto our newly bought Protea T-shirts.
A sea of vile words, insults and anger swam towards the national team in the cyber world. I wondered what happened to all the Pure Protea supporters. Had they swopped their green and gold for red and blue in the last over?
What is the vile C-word, cauliflowers….Cabbages…Custards…Carbs? No CHOKERS!
The drama queens screamed CHOKERS on every site, one tweeter citing it as more embarrassing than the Hansie match-fixing debacle while another marvelled over the fact that the team hasn’t all died choking on their meals seeing as they’re good at it.
For those wondering what this term is, that has been thrown around in South African cricket, Colin Bryden explains in his article ‘Time to ban the ‘C’ word’: “There is no precise definition of choking in a sporting context but the way I see it is when a team or a player gets to the verge of victory then lets the opportunity slip by freezing at a crucial moment.”
The Proteas have carried the choker noose around their neck for a long time. Dating as far back as 1996, South Africa’s World Cup history is scattered with broken dreams caused by poor decisions. Many would be able to recite one of the Proteas’ heartbreaking losses at crunch time, be it messing up the Duckworth-Lewis method in 2003 or the infamous Klusener and Donald run-out in ’99.
Yes, South Africa lost a match on Sunday. Was it a game that they could have won? Yes. Did they choke? No! The English were just the better cricketers on the day and therefore won.
As they take on the Indians this weekend, you may call them what you want, but don’t say the C-word.